RE-Defined: Cancer Awareness

Two years ago, I wrote Rethinking Cancer Awareness and the South Florida Times published it.

I’m pleased to say my attempt at raising consciousness about this debilitating disease has been re-published with The Coil. Please be sure to check it out and comment there or here.

Rethinking Cancer Awareness

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Veda from The Unhappy Wife book

unhappy-wifeVeda’s story came recommended by a mutual friend. When I first began speaking with her, she was hesitant. Veda didn’t believe that she was an unhappy wife.

“My husband doesn’t beat me or anything,” she said.

To which I replied, “Good. That’s my point with telling these stories. You don’t have to be in an abusive relationship to be unhappy. You just have to have questioned how you ended up in a situation, married to this man.”

Veda agreed to open up to me. I was grateful.

At the time of our conversation, her husband had suffered a stroke about a year prior. The effects of his illness were numerous. Basically, Veda had gone from having a helpful partner to being somewhat of a caregiver, while continuing to mother three daughters and working a fulltime job.

Concept: I knew I wanted to present Veda as a committed wife for several reasons. Whereas Darlene was committed due to religious principles and Crystal was committed because of her mother’s advice, Veda was committed because she loved her husband and took her wedding vows seriously. You know, “in sickness and in health”? As I listened to her story, I wondered how many women had actually thought about what that phrase might look like. How many of us could really imagine what may happen?

Veda’s story is unique because it gives a brief depiction. “In sickness and in health” looks like telling your husband to seek medical attention because another stroke might kill him, and accepting the idea that he doesn’t want to listen. “In sickness and in health” looks like enduring your husband’s stroke that left him debilitated in many ways, while maintaining some semblance of a household you both once knew.

I asked Veda if she felt as if she’d had a fourth child.

“No,” she said, “I love him. That’s my husband.”

This is what I wanted the final narrative to show. A woman can love her husband, but unforeseen circumstances can develop and cause the entire relationship to shift, thus creating aspects of unhappiness.

Additionally, I hoped this story would help women think to themselves, could I have remained with my husband if he didn’t listen to me and ended up having a stroke that totally changed our relationship and way of life? This is why I chose the past, present and future format. None of us knows what the future of a relationship will bring. The most we can do is know ourselves so that we can make conscious choices that are aligned with our values, and follow our intuition with each situation.

unhappy-wifeI hope you’ve enjoyed discussing each story with one another. I also hope that you’ve found the stories as useful reflections of your own relationships. Next month, I’ll re-blog part of Anita Charlot’s afterword from the book. Her expertise as an online relationship coach provided valuable insights. The Unhappy Wife will continue to be for sale.

RE-Defined: FRIENDSHIP

I have quite a few people whom I call friend. There are friends who I never speak to, but still hold the title. A woman named Mika fits into this category. We’ve known each other since we were six. We went to the same schools, up until senior year. She attended my wedding and I attended hers. Her husband even edited my dissertation for free because I didn’t have money at the time. However, I haven’t verbally spoken with her in about two years. We haven’t seen each other in even more time. Still, I know she’s my friend.

I have other friends who begin text messages as if we spoke yesterday.

“KG, what did I say in this last post that could’ve been negative or offensive?” my friend Calvin asked the other day. Excluding the are you okay because a hurricane is covering your state convo, we haven’t had a real conversation in about eight months. We lol’d and emoji’d for the next few hours. He described how his oldest daughter was doing at her private university and I shared how my oldest is doing living on her own going to community college. In between, we talked about how ridiculous Facebook has gotten, and then hours later we said ttyl and good night.

New ImageMy other friend, Wanda’s birthday is six days before mine. That’s how our friendship began. For years, she and I would road trip to Atlanta or Orlando with a couple of other women to celebrate. After a while, that ended. But our friendship remained. Currently, we talk on the phone every now and then. We go out to eat occasionally. She was one of my number one supporters when I released The Unhappy Wife book, wearing the t-shirt all around Jacksonville, and holding conversations with anyone who would listen and purchase a copy. I know if anything ever happened, this chick would not only hide the body, but also regulate her breathing so she could pass the lie detector test.

I also have friends that are former high school students. I haven’t taught at that level for eleven years, and it took me a minute to be comfortable with calling these women friends, because of society’s rules. But I’ve had to admit that’s who they’ve come to be. Each is nearing 30, and as individual relationships grow, I’ve noticed that every woman mirrors a part of me. One is eccentric, wishes for no one’s opinion, and lives life unabashedly on her own terms. Another is a goal-setter, with her life paved out. The last one’s challenging home life used to dictate who she was and how she lived, but not anymore; she lives consciously and takes responsibility for her energy and space. Reflection is an understatement. They are me; and I am them.

I have another friend who I’ve never met! I’ve talked about her before. She’s a WordPress blogger named Mek. We haven’t met because she lives on a different continent. For a while, we talked at least once a day through an app. Then, our relationship stabilized and now we reach out when there is time. Our conversations include a lot of riiights and high-fives because, for the most part, we get each other. She knows all about my family’s successes and challenges, and I know about hers. We cheer each other on when there’s something that requires pom-poms and listen when there’s something that requires an ear. Without hesitation, she is my friend.

A few years ago, I would’ve argued that everyone is not your friend. I used to apply a static set of rules to all friendships. How could we be friends if you don’t follow my blog? How could we be friends if I haven’t talked to you in three years? Over time, I’ve learned that’s not fair to the person or the relationship, and it’s a bit unrealistic. People are different, and consequently, so are the ways in which they relate to others.

What I’ve realized is friendships are fluid. While each friendship has been created out of mutuality, no two friends are alike and that should be respected. Because of this, I’ve learned to appreciate each friend’s individual personality as a constant gift of love that ebbs and flows throughout my life. In that way, I’m grateful for each person, no matter how and when they show up.

This is how I now define friendship. How do you define a friend? What makes someone your friend? Have your “requirements” changed over time?

Got Boundaries?

Well do you? Do the people with whom you interact know exactly how far they can go with you? Physically? Emotionally? Psychologically? Do you know how far you want to go with others?

I recently listened to an Iyanla Vanzant episode centered on relationships. You can find it here. In it, she suggests that we not only establish boundaries in our relationships, but that we also make those boundaries known to individuals. Another useful step is to ensure those people know what the consequence will be if they should violate your stated boundary.

I can see how this will work with children because, well, adult-child relationships definitely require boundaries. For example, my 15-year-old, Desi and I were texting one day. In it, she replied, LMAO. To which I responded, you don’t get to laugh your ass off with me ma’am. She hasn’t done it again. She tested a boundary. It failed. She learned how far she could go.

But what happens when there are two adults and something more serious? Remember Buddy? According to Iyanla’s lesson, I should have stated something like this ahead of time: Buddy, I will not tolerate drunken, violent behavior. If you become drunk and violent, then you will have to leave our home.

While I have no problem having a boundary conversation with most adults, I do wonder if I can establish boundaries and allow the person to be him or herself, simultaneously.

Stay with me here. You know I value allowing people to be whoever they are; however, if I establish a boundary, then aren’t I asking the person to not be themselves while they’re in my company? So, is it better to ask Buddy to be mindful of his drinking limit, or just not invite Buddy to the next family function? For most of my life, I’ve just done the latter. That way Buddy can be himself…at…his…home.

I suppose my question is, can you establish boundaries and allow the person to be him or herself at the same time, or are these two different philosophical ways of living life? Can the two work together?

I know this post is more questions than answers, but that’s how (my) life is most times. Let me know what you think. Which do you prefer? Are you a boundary-setter? Tell us all how you do it.

12 Ways to Maintain the Christmas Spirit AFTER Christmas (7)

Over the holiday season, a few bloggers and I discussed how easily people slip into the “giving” spirit when mid-November rolls around. And then *poof* Just like that, people tend to slip right out of it when January appears. It got me thinking. How can we maintain this energy year-round?

Initially, I’d planned to “experiment” with different ways and then write this at the end of the year. But I figured some people might want to try with me, so instead, I’ll update and re-blog the post every four weeks.

You guys, can you believe it’s already September? We only have three more months left in 2017. I hope you’ve been making an impact wherever you are in the world.

7For August, I paid it forward. In case you’re unfamiliar with this concept, the idea is instead of paying someone back for a good deed, you pay it forward by doing something nice for someone else. For example, during one of this summer’s vacations, our friends paid for all of our meals and museum exhibits. Instead of paying them back, we would just pay it forward by doing something for someone else. Typically, people associate this with literally paying for something for someone. So, that’s where I began.

I learned a few years ago that strangers tend not to accept face-to-face help. When I tried to pay for a guy’s groceries, he vehemently declined. This time around, I simply paid for the person behind me in the Starbucks line. It was done and I could zoom off before the driver knew what happened.

But paying it forward in that way seemed cliche. So the following week, I was more in tune with my surroundings and looked for ways to pay it forward without money. I suppose it’s just called helping someone. This worked out perfectly. Instead of ignoring the bewildered lady who’d never signed into the library’s computer, I stood beside her and patiently explained how to log in and find her name. Someone once had to do this for me too.

I continued paying it forward in this way by holding the door for a lady at yoga. I’d noticed some time ago that people are all Namaste while they’re in yoga, but will let that door slam in your face when it’s over. Instead of silently complaining, I decided to be the change I wanted to see. Another opportunity presented itself the following week. A lady in my Bodyworks class was running late, so I helped her set up her space by getting her dumbbells for her.

“Thank you so much! I was finishing my quinoa and fruit in the car,” she said.

Then, you know what happened? I was running late the next week, and she didn’t hesitate to help me set up so I could begin on time.

img_4623This month, I also participated in our citywide “Stuff the Bus” back-to-school campaign. I normally don’t do this because we have our own children’s school supply needs to fulfill, but again, there was that one year D and I needed a little extra help for our own daughters. Instead of paying that person back, I gave freely to support the children in my community.

So far, this month is my favorite way to maintain the Christmas spirit after Christmas because paying it forward really is just about being present and giving of oneself in ways that someone once gave to you.

Let me know what you think about this one. Also, tell me if you’ve ever paid it forward to return a good deed, or just to be nice in the moment.

Click here to read about ways 1-6.

*Spoiler Alert: For October I’ll be running a diaper drive for a foster care here in Jacksonville. Click on the CONTACT form if you’re interested in sending me a pack of diapers to pass on to them.

Monday Notes: Revolution (a Haiku) ✊🏾🕉✊🏾

Sometimes my brain thinks in Haiku. I cannot explain it, nor would I ever try. It just is. Here’s an example:

I’m walking around
with an OM tat on my arm,
promoting oneness.

But people challenge
this concept with constancy,
detaching themselves.

You’re white and I’m black.
He’s Jewish and she’s Muslim.
They’re poor and we’re rich.

Who cares? What matters?
I wonder as we bicker.
Who gains from such rifts?

img_4793

I know the answer.
It’s a rhetorical thought.
Hegemony rules,

if we allow it.
Otherwise, can’t we create
a new world order?

Revolution. © 2017 K E Garland. All Rights Reserved.

Feel free to add a verse. How do you think we can come to understand we’re all one? Do we need to try or will it just happen naturally?

August 12th

August 12th was a beautiful day. We’re in Florida so it was 98,000 degrees, but it was a beautiful 98,000 degrees because my friend, Tarra had just returned from China. She’d been singing in a Shanghai nightclub for the past eight months.

WhatsApp kept us close. Text messages, videos and voice-recordings preserved our relationship.

“Plan a day for us,” she texted before her arrival.

I agreed, but I forgot to tell her that I rarely plan things anymore, not entire days at least. She’d find out soon enough.

We began that Saturday with breakfast at our favorite spot, Another Broken Egg.

“Do you mind if I invite John?” she asked.

I didn’t mind. I’d visited John’s home with her last year. Blue crab and conversation permeated the air and left me with a fondness for him. It was fine.

img_4677We talked and laughed over fried green tomatoes, lobster and Brie omelets, and shrimp and grits. Tarra’s overseas stories captivated my imagination, and reminded me of every other artist’s story; the opportunity to sing in another country was fascinating, but underhanded business practices seem to be the norm.

Once breakfast was over, a girl outside agreed to photograph our mini photo shoot:

Tarra by herself.

Tarra and me.

Tarra and John.

John and me.

Tarra, John, and me.

I’m grateful for younger people who understand the importance of documenting events. She didn’t ask questions or look annoyed.

A few weeks prior, I’d asked Tarra if she wanted to do a wine tasting.

“I’d love to,” she responded. “I’ve never been to one.”

Doing things that someone has never done before excites me. I dusted off my Cooper’s Hawk wine tasting gift card and we headed ten minutes up the street. My friend had only had an African Shiraz and hadn’t been very impressed. Now, we were on a red wine mission.

As the sommelier poured and explained each glass, I laughed as Tarra’s former educator-self shone through. Check + for Rosé. Check – for Lux Pinot Noir.

We talked about over-40 lady issues, her relationships, and my children. I shared my latest writing projects with her. We high-fived and toasted to achievements and marveled at how we’d attained them in the first place. That’s the type of friend she is. We’ve deemed one another Dream Partners. She was there when I completed my PhD and I was there before she stepped into her calling. Everyone needs someone to say, “You can do it,” especially when you’re not so sure you should, much less can. She’s that friend.

I checked my phone. It was two o’clock already.

“I have a confession,” I began, “I know it’s not like me, but I didn’t plan the rest of the day. I’ve changed quite a bit…not as anal as I used to be. I figured we’d just find something to do.”

“You know. That’s not like you at all, but we can do whatever.”

A thought popped into my mind. “Let’s take a riverboat tour!”

She agreed. Twenty minutes later, we were downtown and looking for the loading dock. We’d also lucked out and could do an hour tour with another group.

st_johns_river_artworkBy now it was 158,000 degrees outside, plus those eight tastings were slowly taking effect. I fell asleep about 15 minutes in, so much so that when Tarra woke me up just in time to take this picture, I didn’t even remember that I was on a boat. My photog instinct kicked in just in time. And I’m grateful because this is something I’ve only seen from the water.

“You’re welcome!” She said. “I thought you wouldn’t want to miss this.”

“Thank you,” I said, wiping my forehead with the toilet tissue the tour guide had handed me when we first boarded.

Our water taxi lasted much longer than an hour. The captain’s and tour guide’s shifts ended, and somehow, we ended up taking another lap around the St. Johns River with the new crew.

img_4725We disembarked by five o’clock and headed to her friend’s get together. There, three other women welcomed Tarra back to the States. One of the lady’s husbands had made blue crab, shrimp, sausage, and eggs, a Jacksonville staple. We sat around the round, glass table and reveled in Tarra’s growth and presence. It’s hard not to leap spiritual bounds when you’ve been living independently overseas.

My phone read 9:00. It was time for me to hug Tarra good-bye and head back home.

I reflected on the twelve hours we’d shared. They were easy. They were calm. They were relaxing. They were exactly how I would expect spending the day with a friend should be.

Journey to the Center of My Heart: Trusting My Inner Voice

The year after my mother died, my father packed up all of my belongings in trash bags and sent me to live with my maternal grandmother. I was seventeen. One day after I’d gotten settled, I confided a feeling I’d had.

“I’m going to write a book,” I said with a smile.

“Oh yeah?” She asked. “About what?”

“About my mother’s death.”

“You think you’re the only whose mother’s died?” She replied.

feedback_opinionI want to share this with you, not to bash my grandmother. Twenty-seven years later, I know that people’s conversations and comments have little to do with me. I’m sharing this with you because I never wrote about my mother. Her response led me to believe that not only was my topic one in a million, but that no one else would want to read it.

So I didn’t write it. In fact, I didn’t write much of anything for the next 25 years.

I became a high-school English teacher, got two more degrees, and became an education professor.

The urge to write crept back around 2014. I asked my little sister friend to create this very WordPress site for me. She did. I took it from there and learned the ins and outs of blogging. I continued to follow my intuition. Blogging gave me more writing confidence. Blogging 101 and 201 gave me more tools and knowledge. Following people like Janice Wald gave me more tips.

2015 rolled around. My dad died. I felt a flurry of emotions and another urge of intuition: Write about it. This time I didn’t tell anyone, not one soul. I sat in my stepmother’s guest bedroom and wrote the entire story of our failed relationship from 1989 to his death in 2015. I included all of the murky, emotional details that people rarely want to discuss or feel. By the last keystroke, I felt satisfied. But it was too long for a blog post (that’s something Janice Wald taught me).

I broke it up into five separate posts and called it a series; that’s something I learned in Blogging 101 or 201. The response was positive and endearing. Once again, this validated a choice I’d made to follow my heart.

A few months later, I had another stroke of intuition: Find a local writers group. I sought out the Florida Writers Association and considered entering their annual writing contest. Mek, a blogging friend I’d written with had been taking writing courses. She read The Transition and offered genuine suggestions.

I entered the contest and won first place for Creative Nonfiction of an unpublished piece. Did I need to win to prove I should follow my heart? Not really. I’d already felt good by simply writing it. But there’s no doubt my choice to write was again validated.

Now I had an “award-winning” piece of literature. It came in handy when the Still I Rise Grant required three writing samples. And although I didn’t win, as some of you remember, Alternating Current/The Coil published that piece during Father’s Day weekend.

Furthermore, Alternating Current then nominated The Transition for Best of the Net.

meditating_1This is just one example of why I’m adamant about listening to your inner voice and tuning others’ out. This is why I almost beg people to follow their hearts. Those feelings, voices, visions, or whatever come to you, they’re not accidental. They are specific nuances sent to guide you towards what you and only you should be doing.

Furthermore, I finally realize my grandmother was right. I’m not the only person whose mother (and father) have died. However, I’ve also recognized my ability to string words together that convey relatable feelings for people who’ve been through similar experiences. Today, I’m glad sharing about my life through writing has not only helped others, but also shaped a clear path for me as I continue to follow my heart.

Monday Notes: Thoughts During My Facebook Break

Every year I take a 30-day Facebook break. Just like other things, I tend to use Facebook intently and intensely, so I need to deactivate every now and then.

My social media vacay is typically around the holidays, but this time August seemed to be the best time of year. I figured I wouldn’t miss the back-to-school pics, latest Donald Trump outrage, or eclipse images. I was right. The only thing I missed is my go-to for random thoughts. Instead, I used my Notes section.

img_4769Here are August’s thoughts, with a few explanations.

Boundaries help define who you are and who you are not ~ Thomas J. Leonard I forgot where I read this quote, but it was helpful. With the help of Dwight, I’d recently realized that I still have some unresolved issues with my grandmother. Part of it is a boundary issue. While I’m firm about who I am and what I’ll take from other people, with her, my boundaries look a little like jumbled up squiggly lines (sometimes). I’m going to work on that.

It is possible to only do things you WANT to do. People argue with me about this, but for me, it’s all about choices. If you’re (an adult) participating in situations that you don’t want to, then I’d suggest it’s because you made a choice to do so. Stop choosing negative and displeasing experiences, and watch how much your life will fall into a place where you’re always where you want to be.

When do you put your spirituality into practice? Well, when do you?

Life is just an exchange of energy with others and we can choose how much, what frequency, or how often we make that exchange. I wrote this comment on Reena’s blog. I forget which topic, but something she shared made me re-think how we function as people. We tend to forget that connection is important, but we don’t have to be beholden to others’ whims.

People will not combust if you say, “No.”

If you ask me to do something, and I say, “No,” and you try to convince me to do it anyway, then that’s called manipulation. Have you ever thought of it that way? I first heard a rendition of this from Oprah years ago. And once I considered it more, I agreed. This month people have asked me to do all sorts of things that I just wasn’t feeling. I’ve gotten a lot better at simply saying no. Once they go into convincing mode, it’s much easier for me to stick to my decision because I now view it as manipulation, and I definitely don’t want to be controlled. Conversely, I respect others’ decisions more readily because I also don’t want to manipulate them into doing what I’d prefer.

Relationships aren’t meant to be stressful. Period. I’ve had a few pleasant experiences with friends this month. My friend Tarra and I hung out for approximately twelve hours one day. We laughed. We ate. We drank. I fell asleep. There was no drama and no doubt that we were both in good company. Likewise, my friend Rhonda reached out to me during her annual Florida trip. We went to the beach. I got to know her sons a little more. We ate. There was also little doubt about our friendship. In my mind, this is how relationships are supposed to be…stress-free.

Let me know what you think about social media, social media breaks, blogging breaks, or any of my August thoughts.